Missoulian editorial: University of Montana turmoil may have silver lining | Editorial

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Deeply disturbing Virginia cherries the double controversies that have engulfed the University of Montana law school and computer science department over the past two weeks.

Law School Dean Paul Kirgis resigned on October 6 following a student-led walkout over allegations that students were discouraged from reporting sexual harassment and assault. He will find a teaching post at the school. Associate Dean Sally Weaver is also expected to step down.

Then this week, computer science professor Rob Smith switched to paid time off following a report from the student newspaper, Montana Kaimin, on Smith’s disturbing blog posts about women, Muslims and people. LGBTQ. His classes will be taught by another instructor and he cannot set foot on campus as the university is investigating the matter.

We commend the law school students for their willingness to speak up, the Kaimin for their courageous reporting, and the university administration for their swift action in both cases.

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Acting President Reed Humphrey will oversee the transition to law school. “As we move forward together, we will focus on empowering inclusive leadership and achieving our priority of placing student success at the center of everything we do,” he wrote. in a letter to the campus community.

MU President Seth Bodnar called Smith’s views “homophobic and misogynistic” and said he was personally disgusted.

“Building a culture of respect, empowerment and fairness is at the core of our mission at UM and is personally important to me,” said Bodnar. “I have asked the appropriate university officials to take immediate action to address this issue through investigations and support measures.”

We suspect there are many more disturbing details that will emerge in the days and weeks to come. The bright side may be that students will feel empowered to report wrongdoing, knowing that change can result. This has not always been the case in the past.

One aspect of all of this that we feel compelled to comment on is the idea that speaking has no consequences.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a national civil liberties group that seeks to defend the rights of students and faculty on campuses, said the university should end the investigation into Smith’s blog for “Respect its obligations in terms of freedom of expression”.

In a statement shared with the Missoulian, the civil liberties group argues that the First Amendment protects Smith’s right to comment as a private citizen on matters of public interest “even if others find it deeply offensive.”

On the contrary. The First Amendment, basically, just guarantees that the government will not put you in jail for what you say. And even that protection has limits, like yelling “fire” in a crowded theater or threatening to shoot the president.

Your employer is free to fire you for what you say – people are losing their jobs all the time for statements on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms.

You can be ostracized, praised, ridiculed or rejected. And there is no such thing as a “private” blog or social media platform. As Smith discovered, it’s pretty easy to draw a direct line between your personal online statements and your public employment.

We are not suggesting that anyone rush to conclusions. We hope that the investigation of Smith’s behavior will determine whether his vile statements impacted his treatment of his students, and that the university will then take appropriate action.

Blueberries of historical importance to Aspen Decker, a linguistics graduate student at the University of Montana in Arlee who works to preserve and teach the Salish language.

More than 200 native languages ​​in the United States have disappeared in the past 400 years, according to the Language Conservancy.

Only 13 ancient tribals can still speak Salish fluently, Decker said. She and her four children have now been part of the first generation of bilingual speakers in her community for almost 75 years.

She’s been busy. She works as an education coordinator at the Montana Museum of Art and Culture, starts a new student organization called the Indigenous Storytelling Club, and develops a curriculum for a Plains Indian Sign Language course.

Last month, she kicked off the Montana Book Festival with a land recognition statement in Salish.

“I think the importance (of land recognition) is that this land here was our native land for over 14,000 years and the word Missoula actually comes from the Salish word Nmesulétkʷ and it means place of ice water.” , Decker said. “It really goes back to the days of Glacial Lake Missoula. I think it’s important for Missoulians and our local community to really get to know this story that goes back so far.”

We couldn’t agree more. Every language lost diminishes our understanding of the world we live in. We hope that his inspiration will spread and that the Salish will remain a proud legacy of a proud people.

The long-awaited blueberries to the news that the Biden administration will open the U.S. border to fully vaccinated Canadians starting next month.

The entire Montana congressional delegation and Governor Greg Gianforte applauded the decision. The administration did not give a specific date for the opening, which is expected to take place in November.

However, the key words are “fully vaccinated”. US Senator Steve Daines, US Representative Matt Rosendale and Gianforte have all called for the border to be reopened to all Canadians, regardless of their immunization status.

We strongly disagree. Canada requires that travelers crossing its borders be vaccinated. We believe this is a practical approach, given that the pandemic has not gone away, and the policy should be reciprocal.

Montana set a record on Wednesday for the number of its residents hospitalized with COVID-19. Almost 90% of people hospitalized for COVID-19 were not vaccinated.

We welcome Canadian visitors, as long as they are vaccinated.

This editorial represents the views of the Missoulian editorial board – publisher Jim Strauss and editor Jim Van Nostrand.

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